THE PHILIPPINES and China are a united front in the fight against illegal drugs, terror and corruption, President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday at the opening of a global economic forum in Beijing.
“The Philippines is showing how complex relations are not a bar to a positive and mutually beneficial engagement. With China, we stand together in the war on criminality and the illegal drug trade,” Duterte said in his speech at the Boao Forum for Asia, as reported by the Phil Star.
“We are shoulder to shoulder in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism. Make no mistake: there can be no progress without stability in Asia’s lands and waters.”
Relations with China have thawed since Duterte took office in 2016. Traditionally a staunch ally of the US, Manila has been making a steady pivot towards China as Beijing continues to invest billions of dollars in the country.
Duterte also spoke of his commitment to combat corruption; a policy that has been central to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s rule.
“Corruption is a pernicious and rotten social disease that devours my country,” he said. “I have said it to my countrymen and I will say it again here: corruption will not have any place in my government. Not under my watch.”
In the past five years, Xi’s sweeping anti-corruption drive has punished more than 1.5 million Communist Party officials, including former political rivals and senior military leaders. With the advent of the new national supervisory commission, this reach is set to spread beyond party members to all people working in the public sector.
Lucrative business deals were also discussed at the forum, with nine Chinese firms expressing an interest in investing in the Philippines. If they go ahead, the projects will generate about US$9.5 billion and create more than 10,000 new jobs.
Duterte’s cosying up to Beijing comes amid concerns over trade tensions between China and Washington.
After a tit-for-tat imposition of trade tariffs on both sides, President Xi heralded a new wave of “openness” on Tuesday, and pledged to allow foreign companies greater access to China’s financial and manufacturing sectors, signalling lower tariffs on cars in a move to neutralise the escalating tension.